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Christchurch To Auckland Road Trip

If you’re looking for a picturesque and thrilling road trip in New Zealand, look no further than a Christchurch to Auckland road trip (or indeed the reverse Auckland to Christchurch road trip).

This journey is packed with stunning landscapes, charming towns, and exciting attractions that will make for unforgettable memories. From the rugged coastline of Kaikoura to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, there’s something for everyone on this adventure-filled route.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to New Zealand or a returning traveller looking for your next big adventure, this road trip promises to be an experience like no other. So buckle up and get ready for an epic journey through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

This route is for a 7-day trip, but I have also included suggestions for additional stops if you have more time available.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Christchurch

River with ducks running through the botanic gardens, with bushes and flowers on both sides of the water.

Christchurch is a city with a rich history and vibrant culture. Known as the โ€œGarden City,โ€ Christchurch boasts an abundance of parks and gardens that are perfect for picnics, strolls, and outdoor activities.

In addition to its natural beauty, Christchurch also has plenty of cultural attractions that are worth exploring. The Canterbury Museum offers visitors a glimpse into the regionโ€™s past, while art galleries like the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetลซ showcase contemporary works from local and international artists.

Christchurch is also the location of the 2011 earthquake that damaged many significant buildings and caused the deaths of 185 people. In the years since that tragic event, the city has rebuilt and there are even a few buildings dedicated to the event.

For those interested in geology and earthquakes, Quake City makes for an interesting visit. The Cardboard Cathedral was built after the demolition of the landmark cathedral in the city centre, using cardboard as one of its primary construction materials.

Triangular cathedral building with stained glass windows in a triangular pattern

Another suggestion is the International Antarctic Centre, a short drive from the city centre. Most scientific expeditions to Antarctica leave from Christchurch, and a museum showcases the history of Antarctic exploration, as well as some of the challenges of everyday life for those who spend time living and working in Antarctica.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Argyle in the Park is next to Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens and a reasonable price.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Check out Jailhouse Accommodation for budget options in dorm rooms.

Day 2 – Kaikoura

Kaikoura is best known for whale and dolphin watching, however as these tours tend to start early in the day I recommend joining a tour on Day 3, unless you want to leave Christchurch very early.

Head north up State Highway 1 from Christchurch past the rolling hills and rivers of New Zealand’s Canterbury region. Stop in Waipara for lunch at one of the many winery restaurants in the town.

Make a few stops along the way to enjoy the scenery until you reach Kaikoura. Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island, this charming town offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Head to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway to get some ocean views and see the Ohau Point seal colony. You may even see dolphins and whales from the walkway if you are lucky.

If you prefer flora over fauna, the nearby lavender farm might be of interest. Using different varietals to ensure year-round blooms, Lavendyl Lavender Farm makes for a relaxing visit with gardens, a cafe and a gift shop.

Where to Stay in Kaikoura

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Sudima Kaikoura is next to the beach with a restaurant on site.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Dolphin Lodge is a hostel with cheap dorm rooms near the water.

Drive Christchurch to Kaikoura: 2hrs 30min, 113 miles

A humpback whale breaching in the waters near Kaikoura, New Zealand

Day 3 – Blenheim

Start your day with a whale-watching tour. There are resident sperm whales in the area and seasonal visits from orcas (killer whales) and humpback whales. Dolphins are also frequently seen playing in the waters around Kaikoura.

You can choose from a catamaran or kayak tour, or even a whale-watching flight if budget isn’t a concern. The tour start times depend on the season, and you will need to book in advance.

After hopefully spotting many marine animals, head to State Highway 1 again and head further north to Blenheim. Blenheim is located in the Marlborough region, an area famous for winemaking.

This charming town is home to some of the world’s best vineyards and wineries, making it an ideal destination for wine enthusiasts. New Zealand is renowned for its wine and Marlborough is the biggest wine region in the country. With its stunning landscapes, warm climate, and friendly locals, Blenheim offers visitors an authentic taste of what New Zealand has to offer.

One of the main attractions in Blenheim is the Marlborough Wine Trail. This trail takes visitors through some of the most beautiful vineyards and wineries in the region.

Hire a bike or join a tour and spend the afternoon visiting a couple of wineries. There are several within an easy distance of Blenheim, and it’s one of the most popular wine-tasting regions in the country.

Rows of grape vines on a cloudy day near Blenheim.

Where to Stay in Blenheim

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Blenheim Palms Motel is centrally located and some rooms have spa baths.

Drive Kaikoura to Blenheim: 1hr 45mins, 80 miles

Day 4 – Ferry to Wellington

Leave Blenheim and head towards Picton to catch the Interislander ferry. The ferry journey lasts 3 1/2 hours, and takes you through Queen Charlotte Sound and across the Cook Strait.

Any trip to New Zealand should include some time in Wellington, and as it sits at the southern tip of the North Island, it is the perfect mid-point for your Christchurch to Auckland Road Trip.

Tip: the timetables adjust according to the time of year, and certain ferries do not run every day of the week. Book in advance and ensure you have checked in at the ferry terminal at least 1 hour before departure.

Where to Stay in Wellington (2 nights)

Most hotels in Wellington don’t offer parking so you will need to look at parking options.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ QT Wellington is a quirky hotel with an excellent restaurant and interesting artwork.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Marion Hostel offers budget dorm rooms in an otherwise expensive city.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yC2e8cDXTU

Day 5 – Wellington

View of the harbour on a sunny day, with museum, boats and houses behind the waterfront.

Spend a day exploring Wellington. Wellington, the charming capital city of New Zealand situated on the southern tip of the North Island, is a must-visit destination for any New Zealand road trip. Known for its vibrant culture and friendly locals, Wellington has something to offer everyone.

A visit to the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ isn’t complete without a stroll along the popular waterfront promenade with a flat white from one of the city’s many coffee shops.

The scenic walkway offers views of the harbour and provides access to some of Wellington’s best cafes and restaurants. Check out Cuba Street’s independent cafes and shops, if you feel like a bit of shopping.

For those who love history, a trip to Te Papa National Museum is a must-see attraction. This world-class museum showcases New Zealand’s unique cultural heritage with interactive exhibits that are both informative and entertaining. Best of all, entrance to the main collection is free.

If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Wellington, take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens and stroll back down past the beautiful rose garden.

Day 6 – Rotorua

This will be the longest driving day on the trip, but it is a great drive. You’ll pass through Tongariro National Park with views of Mt Tongariro. You’ll drive along the shore of Lake Taupo – created by two of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in Earth’s history.

Rotorua is known for its stunning natural beauty and geothermal activity. It’s also a hub for Maori culture and history, making it an ideal destination for those looking to learn more about the country’s indigenous people.

One of the main attractions in Rotorua is its geothermal parks. Places like Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Te Puia offer visitors the chance to witness bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, and hot springs up close.

Yellow-green thermal pool surrounded by rocks and plants at Wai-O-Tapu

The sulfuric smell may take some getting used to, but it’s worth it for the unique experience. There are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking in nearby areas such as Whakarewarewa Forest.

Another draw to Rotorua is its rich Maori culture. There are several cultural tours you can participate in to watch traditional Maori dances and songs and eat a hangi feast.

โœ… Book your tour and dinner at Mitai Maori Village here.

Drive Wellington to Rotorua: 6 hours, 280 miles.

Where to Stay in Rotorua

๐Ÿ›๏ธ JetPark Hotel offers good value for money close to the city centre.

Day 7 – Auckland

The Sky Tower in Auckland at sunrise.

There are two routes I would recommend for the drive between Rotorua and Auckland.

The first route is a long drive with a detour to Waitomo, to visit the famous glowworm caves. The caves were formed over millions of years by the forces of water and limestone, creating a network of tunnels and chambers that stretch for miles beneath the surface.

But it’s not just the incredible geology that makes these caves so special โ€“ it’s also the thousands of tiny glowworms that call them home.

These bioluminescent creatures create a magical spectacle as they light up the darkness with their soft blue-green glow. Visitors can explore the caves on foot or by boat, marvelling at stalactites and stalagmites along with an underground river system.

โœ… Book your tour of the Waitomo glowworm caves here.

The second route option is a shorter drive via Matamata, where the film set for Hobbiton is still in place and you can join a tour of this key location in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. For fans of the films, you can pose by the hobbit holes, see the party tree and visit the Green Dragon Inn.

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, is a vibrant and diverse metropolis that offers something for everyone. With its stunning natural beauty, world-class dining scene, and thriving arts and culture scene, there’s never a dull moment in this bustling city.

One of the most iconic landmarks in Auckland is the Sky Tower, which stands tall at 328 meters and offers breathtaking views of the city from its observation deck. Visitors to the Sky Tower can also take part in activities such as bungy jumping or walking around the edge of the tower.

For those who prefer a more laid-back experience, take the ferry over to Waiheke Island for wine tasting and walking.

Drive from Rotorua to Auckland

Route 1 via Waitomo: 4hrs 45min, 206 miles

Route 2 via Matamata: 2hrs 45mins, 142 miles

Where to Stay in Auckland

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Fable has beautifully decorated rooms in the city centre.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ LyLo Hostel offers cheaper beds in dorm rooms.

Suggestions For More Than 7 Days

Queenstown

If you have a few extra days I would highly recommend starting your road trip further south in Queenstown. Queenstown sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the mountains of the Southern Alps. It’s a beautiful place for both relaxing and thrill chasing.

There are many adventure activities in Queenstown such as skydiving and jetboating, and it is also located in an area significant for winemaking – Central Otago. You can also find several day tours from Queenstown, including to the magnificent Milford Sound.

Abel Tasman National Park

Squeeze in an extra day in the South Island before you take the ferry to Wellington and explore this national park. It offers breathtaking views of golden beaches, sparkling waters, and lush forests. The park has a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking and kayaking.

The coastline is home to fur seals, dolphins and penguins which make for an exciting wildlife experience. You can also take a boat trip around the coast where you’ll spot rock formations and stunning waterfalls.

Hawkes Bay

Hawkes Bay is a region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It is known for its sunny weather, stunning landscapes, and world-class vineyards. The region is also home to some of the country’s best beaches and surf spots.

Another must-visit destination in Hawkes Bay is Napier, a seaside city known for its art deco architecture. Visitors can take a stroll along Marine Parade to admire the city’s unique buildings or visit one of its many art galleries and museums.

Coromandel Peninsula

Coromandel is a stunning coastal town located on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island. It is renowned for its untouched natural beauty, picturesque beaches and laid-back lifestyle. Coromandel is synonymous with golden sand beaches.

The most famous of these are Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove – both must-see destinations for any visitor to the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a kayak tour around the coastline or try your hand at surfing.

Cathedral Cove in Coromandel is a great additional stop on a Christchurch to Auckland road trip.

Car Rental and Driving Information

Discover Cars offer great deals on car hire.

You will need a full driving licence to hire a car and prices will be higher for younger drivers.

  • Drive on the left side of the road
  • There are many narrow and steep roads around the country, take your time and be cautious if the roads are wet.
  • There are several tourist areas which might appear close to each other on a map but require a significant detour around the mountains – double-check your route for driving distances.
  • Most rental cars now are automatic, but there are some manual cars around so make sure you choose whichever you are comfortable with.
  • Speed limits and signs are in km/h.
  • The driver is responsible for ensuring everyone in the car has seatbelts on.
  • Be careful if you are driving and visiting wineries. Allow enough time for any alcohol to leave your system as the penalties for drunk driving can be severe.
  • You must not use a handheld phone while driving.

FAQs

Do I Need A Visa To Enter New Zealand

If you are from a Visa Waiver country you will need to apply for a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) which takes around 72 hours to be processed and costs NZD17. From other countries, you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa which typically takes around 36 days and costs NZD211.

Both of these options are for visitors only and do not allow you to work in New Zealand. You should only apply via the official government website.

Is New Zealand Safe For Solo Travellers

Yes! New Zealand is a very safe country, and is a great choice for solo travellers, especially women travelling alone.

Final Thoughts on a Christchurch to Auckland Road Trip

A road trip from Christchurch to Auckland is an unforgettable adventure that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. From the stunning landscapes and rugged coastlines to the charming towns and cultural experiences along the way, this journey offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re travelling solo or with friends and family, there are endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. So pack your bags, hit the open road, and experience New Zealand’s South Island and North Island in all their glory. You won’t regret it!

Rock formations rising through the water in Queen Charlotte Sound, part of the ferry route from Picton to Wellington

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